The Tanzanian government has ordered the installation of Electronic Fiscal Devices (EFDs) at all points of revenue collection to maximize its revenue drive.
Vice President of Tanzania, Samia Suluhu Hassan on Monday made a remarkable revelation: the government is using Sh900 billion out of its monthly Sh1.3 trillion revenue collection to service its debts.
At the occasion to open a four-day meeting of the regional and district medical officers, Ms Hassan noted that when the Fifth Phase government took over towards the end of last year it found old debts had matured and had to be honoured.
According to the VP, one-third of the monthly revenue that is collected is spent on public servants’ salaries.
To boost government earnings Ms Hassan instructed the medical officers to make sure that electronic fiscal devices (EFDs) are installed in all hospitals.
She told the medical officers to be patient while the shortage of funds to run public hospitals is addressed.
“It is unfortunate that we took over when time was due for debt servicing,” she said without specifying the nature of the debts and how much has so far been released to that effect. Among the debts that President John Magufuli’s administration had to repay include arrears totalling over Sh1 trillion to contractors who had provided service to the government.
The government also owed pension funds over Sh5 trillion in arrears, which Dr Magufuli said he was committed to servicing.
When tabling the 2016/17 Budget, the minister for Finance, Dr Philip Mpango, said the government would spend Sh8 trillion, equivalent to 44 per cent of the whole budget of Sh17.8 trillion to service the public debt. This translates to Sh666 billion per month.
Ms Hassan, who last week admitted that there was shortage of drugs and medical supplies in the country despite denials by the Minister of Health Ummy Mwalimu, said that the government was thinking of establishing a revolving fund to boost the country’s medical supply chain.
She said under the fund, the government would inject money to buy drugs and medical supplies and once they are the sold, the realised cash would be returned directly to the fund to ensure timely distribution of medicines.
The VP further challenged the top medical officers to report if there’s a shortage of a special vaccine injected to expectant mother just before delivery to forestall massive blood loss. She said that in her two-day investigations, she discovered that a majority of the expectant mothers are not administered with the vaccine.
“Sadly, because of the shortage, an expectant mother who doesn’t enjoy some familiarity with the health workers has to give a bribe to be administered with the key vaccine. The government need to get a full report on this matter… if there’s genuine shortage we can urgently address it and save lives,” she said.
Ms Hassan noted that government has so far received eight requests by pharmaceutical companies wishing to set up drug manufacturing in the country.
The chairman of the regional medical officers in Tanzania Mainland, Dr Subi Leonard, said their biggest challenge was the periodic shortage of drugs and medical supplies, a situation that causes intense dissatisfaction among the citizens.
He said currently they receive between 40 and 55 per cent of the orders they press at Medical Stores Department (MSD), something that force them to count on prime vendors who, however, don’t operate in all regions.
“The process of getting drugs and medical supplies usually takes long and some drugs are too costly. This problem should be addressed urgently because when the shortage hits special groups such as expectant mothers, children, the elderly and those with chronic diseases, who comprise almost 60 per cent of our patients, the situation worsens,” he said.
Dr Leonard further asked the government to help public health facilities to clear the Sh28 billion they owe the MSD. Speaking on behalf of donor community investing in health sector in the country, Dr Thomas Touscher, said that the community is now working on a system that will allow them release aid money directly to the health facilities. He said that they are now waiting for the Treasury to issue them with a list of accounts of all public health facilities in the country. According to Dr Touscher, development partners will in the current fiscal year 2016/17 inject $64 million to the health budget, but said since the money is coming from their tax payers then they will scrutinise its expenditure and make a report about it.
He said in their recent tour of Dodoma, Geita and Mtwara regions, they saw the efforts made by public health workers despite the operational challenges they are facing.